Tokyo Asakusa Park: Picture of the Ryōunkaku Building

Utagawa Kuniteru III (active c. 1886-1895)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Tokyo Asakusa Park: Picture of the Ryōunkaku Building

by Utagawa Kuniteru III, 1891

Utagawa Kuniteru III (active c. 1886-1895)

IHL Cat. #2232

About This Print

As Tokyo's, and Japan's, first Western-style skyscraper, Ryōunkaku 凌雲閣 ("Cloud-Surpassing Pavillion") was subject of a number of depictions in woodblock and lithograph prints, posters and postcards, several examples of which are shown below. The colors on this collection's print look as fresh as the day it was printed 130 years ago. The colors of modernity, red and purple, dominate, as is befitting this architectural marvel which opened in late 1890.

This twelve-story 170' tower stood in the Asakusa district of Tokyo from 1890 until its demolition following the Great Kanto earthquake on September 21, 1923. Designed by Scottish engineer W. K. Burton, the Asakusa Jūnikai 浅草十二階, Asakusa Twelve-Stories, as it was called affectionately by Tokyoites, was the most popular attraction in Tokyo, and a showcase for new technologies, housing Japan's first electric elevator.1 

click on image to enlarge

1 The two elevators in the building were designed by Ichisuke Fujioka (1857-1918), co-founder of Toshiba. Each with a 10-person capacity, serving the first to eighth floors of the 12-story structure. Half a year after construction, authorities ordered operation suspended. Operation was re-started in 1911.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Tokyo Asakusa Park: Picture of the Ryounkaku Building
 Artist Utagawa Kuniteru III (active c. 1886-1895)
Kuniteru ga 国輝画 (note: last character in signature is obscured by paper damage but is likely 画 (ga).
 Seal (of the artist)no seal
 Publication Date
February 1891
明治廿四年ニ月 印刷 仝年仝月 日出版
[click on image to enlarge]
 PublisherKatada Chōjirō 
[click on image to enlarge]
[Marks ref. 217, seal not shown]
 Impression good - misregistered as consistent with low-cost prints of period
 Colors excellent
 Condition fair - trimmed to image right and bottom margins; vertical and center folds length of paper; paper repair verso center left margin
 Genre ukiyo-e; kaika-e
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper 
 13 1/2 x 8 5/8 in. (34.3 x 21.9 cm)
 H x W Image 12 3/4 8 3/16 in. (32.4 x 20.8 cm)

 Collections This Print
 Suntory Museum of Art ID 895; Edo Tokyo Museum (Tokyo Digital Museum) 87102133
last revision:
1/23/2020 created